Going home is exhilarating; saying goodbye is devastating.
These are diametrically opposed emotions, yet they co-exist. To go home, one must first say goodbye.
On our 30th day in America, ending a whole month of vacation, we got ready to go home. Son #2 took a leave from clinic-and-hospital duties to drive us to the airport. Hours earlier, at 3 AM, I woke up to say goodbye to Adrian and his mom who had a plane to catch for Toronto (to attend a granduncle’s wake).
Adrian and I hugged, and hugged one more time. He said, “Come again, Amah.” His mom gave me a tight squeeze, too, as I whispered my “thank yous.” I decided not to wake Angkong up to spare him the goodbyes.
Later in the afternoon, our bags were stowed in the car, too, all set to go home. Along the way, son #2 stopped at I-Hop for our dinner. Over roast beef and pancakes, the conversation was casual, nothing maudlin. And I stopped short of being mushy—muting what my mommy heart was saying, You did everything to make us enjoy our stay with your family, sparing nothing. Thank you.
“Smile!” Son #2 said, as he held up his phone for a selfie.
At the airport, he stacked our bags on a cart, gave me and his dad each a cursory hug, and said, “I will be in the parking lot. Call me after you’ve checked in.”
We did. And he drove back home.
I coughed out the catch in my throat, and took off my shoes for security check.
On the plane, I looked out the window, strained my neck to see where we came from, and borrowed some words from an old hymn, “’Twas grace that brought us joy that far, ‘tis grace that will lead us home.”